Restoring the rosters: No. 13 – Cleveland

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
The Indians had a history of producing stars as frequently as any team during the 90s and the early part of this decade. The problem is that a few of those guys were actually ex-Expos and some of the rest are starting to get old now. As a result, the Tribe doesn’t rate as highly as one might think.
Rotation
CC Sabathia
Fausto Carmona
Jeremy Guthrie
Aaron Laffey
Bartolo Colon
Bullpen
Rafael Perez
Brian Tallet
Danys Baez
Edward Mujica
Jensen Lewis
David Riske
David Huff
The rotation would have looked a whole lot better two years ago, with Carmona and Guthrie emerging as quality young starters and a solid Paul Byrd replacing Laffey. Byrd was still considered for the last spot over Colon, as were Tallet, Huff, Scott Lewis and Jeremy Sowers. As is, it’s CC and a bunch of guys who haven’t contributed this year. Tallet has pitched better than most of them, but I still think he’d be more valuable in the pen.
Lineup
SS Marco Scutaro
1B Russell Branyan
C Victor Martinez
LF Manny Ramirez
DH Jim Thome
3B Jhonny Peralta
RF Luke Scott
CF Ben Francisco
2B Maicer Izturis
Bench
OF Ryan Church
INF Kevin Kouzmanoff
INF John McDonald
C Wyatt Toregas
While the pitching staff is a mess, the lineup remains awfully nice. Brian Giles is out, but there were still more legitimate alternatives for the team in Willy Taveras and Ryan Garko. Center field is the weakest position, and Church might deserve a chance to start over Francisco against right-handers. He lacks range in center, but Francisco isn’t exactly a Gold Glove contender either. Against lefties, Francisco should hit second, with Branyan exiting the lineup in favor of Kouzmanoff.
Of course, Victor, Manny, Thome is one of the best 3-4-5 combinations in the game. It’s the middle infielders enjoying career seasons that really boosts Cleveland’s lineup, though. Scutaro’s defense allows Peralta to be played at third, where he’s likely a more valuable player. Izturis has always been pretty solid, but he’s topped his career OPS by 70 points this season.
Summary
Indians prospects have been relative disappointments lately, as should be evident from the team above. The only players on the roster to come along these last couple of seasons are fringe guys. The system has plenty of talent now, but much of that is a result of deals that cost the team Sabathia, Martinez, Cliff Lee, Casey Blake and Mark DeRosa. The Indians are a mid-market club these days, so it’s imperative that they start having better drafts. As is, they haven’t hit big with first-round pick since Sabathia in 1998.

Zack Greinke understands that “the opener” isn’t just about in-game strategy

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Over the weekend, Craig was among those cited as having criticized the Rays by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Craig wrote about it in Sunday’s And That Happened. Many of the responses from Rays fans to him on Twitter, at least most of what I saw, conflated distaste for ownership’s penny-pinching for a belief that the team is bad. Indeed, the Rays enter Tuesday’s action 64-61 and their position above .500 has something to do with “the opener” strategy, which is when they have a reliever like Sergio Romo start the game before handing the ball off to an actual starter after an inning or two. Other teams, like the Twins, have taken notice of “the opener” and have begun experimenting with it.

On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller published a lengthy column discussing how recent changes to the game of baseball have made it a worse product. He quotes a lot of old-timers, which I discussed yesterday. Miller also quoted Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke on the subject of “the opener.” While quotes from the likes of Goose Gossage and Pete Rose were a bit more eye-popping, Greinke’s thoughts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Greinke said:

It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball. It’s just a sideshow. There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings.

You just keep shuffling guys in and out constantly so nobody will ever get paid. Someone’s going to make the money, either the owners or the players. You keep doing it that way, the players won’t make any money.

Back in May, I wrote about how the overarching concept of “bullpenning” creates a serious labor issue in baseball. Greinke touched on exactly those points. An elite starter makes significantly more money than an elite reliever. Compare contracts signed by David Price (seven years, $217 million) and Max Scherzer (seven years, $210 million) to the contract signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), which is currently the most lucrative contract signed by a reliever. It wouldn’t crack the top-85 contracts in baseball.

A starter’s number of starts and his innings pitched total are both cited in arbitration filings and contract negotiations. A pitcher who made 33 starts in a season will have more leverage than a pitcher made only 15 starts. Meanwhile, Romo and Ryne Stanek‘s innings totals aren’t much different than a normal year of relief. Thus, if you’re Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and GM Erik Neander, spreading the number of starts (and innings) between the “rotation” and bullpen will reduce the cost of pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible starters. The owners save this money and pocket it instead of reinvesting it into the team. Then they’ll turn around, cry poor, and ask residents of Tampa to foot the billion-dollar bill for a new stadium in Ybor City, roughly 25 minutes from their current digs.

Greinke is right and we should pay attention to what he’s saying. While “the opener” has some strategic merit, particularly for teams with less-than-complete starting rotations, it also conveniently helps save money for stingy and exploitative front offices. We’ve already accepted that a third of the league gave up on the season before it began. Let’s not accept that teams can give up on their pitching staffs as well.